Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image showing the view towards the top of Western Butte. Photo taken on Sol 2614, December 13, 2019. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2615 tasks.

The rover is keeping up the pace on the Western Butte, reports Catherine O’Connell, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2613, December 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A recently planned 3-sol weekend script has been developed.

“Usually, the first day of a weekend plan is chock full of contact science, with evening and overnight analyses on a couple of different targets,” O’Connell notes, using the robot’s Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), plus Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) on several targets in the workspace, followed by a drive on the second sol.

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 2614, December 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Methane daytime experiment

“This weekend will be unusual, as the entire first day of the plan will be dedicated to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. SAM will run a daytime experiment to investigate methane levels in the atmosphere. This rare experiment is a chance to get some exciting science observations, but we’ll need time after the experiment to analyze the data; we don’t expect to have any takeaways right away,” O’Connell explains.

ChemCam team members at Los Alamos National Laboratory plot use of laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) device on Curiosity Mars rover.
Credit: LANL

The SAM experiment is very power intensive, O’Connell adds, “so we are skipping our usual contact science here in favor of a more pared down science plan.”

Curiosity Chemistry & Camera Remote Micro Imager (RMI) photo acquired on Sol 2614, December 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

Move on up

Curiosity science members are eager to keep moving up Western Butte (one of a series of hills in this area).

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2613, December 13, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We are traversing rocks which are stratigraphically higher than those we have previously crossed, and everyone is eager to see what lies ahead,” O’Connell points out. “So rather than stay here too long, the geology theme group (GEO) opted to drive onwards, after a short early morning analysis (an aptly named “Touch and Go” analysis) on the target “North Esk” with MAHLI and APXS. ChemCam and Mastcam will investigate two bedrock targets “Bruces Haven” and “Aultbea” and then we drive roughly [72 feet] 22 meters further up the side of the Butte.”

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera photo taken on Sol 2614, December 14, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New stratigraphic highs

O’Connell observes that as the robot climbs higher up the Butte, the views just keep getting better.

“Mastcam is going to image both along the Western Butte, and the top of the Butte and beyond, to a horizon that we hope to reach next year. Once the drive ends, Mastcam and Navcam will image the workspace to help us choose targets next week,” O’Connell reports.

In addition to the SAM experiment, the environmental theme group (ENV) planned activities to monitor dust and atmospheric conditions in Gale crater, and routine Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) and Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) activities.

“Climbing up the side of this Butte and reaching new stratigraphic highs has made for an exciting week, with everyone keen to see where the preceding day’s drive has brought us,” O’Connell concludes.

 

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

New road map

Meanwhile, a new road map shows the route driven by Curiosity through the 2613 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (December 13, 2019).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2611 to Sol 2613, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 33.39 feet (10.18 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 13.43 miles (21.61 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2613, December 12, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Mast Camera Right image acquired on Sol 2613, December 12, 2019.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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